I’ve been teaching Sunday school for several months now, enough that there’s a core group of 5th and 6th graders that I see pretty regularly.
It can sometimes be a little awkward. The first week I was on my own, we studied The Ten Commandments. Naturally the first one they asked about was adultery. At this age, we boil it down to “keep your promises,” but to get there I had to correct a guy who said it meant “don’t cheat on your girlfriends” (Girlfriend not friends!), and navigate a disagreement on whether or not “sex” is a bad word. My answer: it’s not, but not everyone is comfortable using the word so we’re going to not use it.
Another week, the kids started trying to reconcile evolution with Genesis. I have a pretty strong opinion on this one, but I took a middle of the road approach.
This week was one of the stranger ones. We were talking about Zachaeus, and the intro question was “What’s the highest thing you’ve ever climbed?”. One girl answered “a plane.” I responded by asking if she was a wing walker, which naturally led to an explanation of what wing walkers were. Eventually there was a reference to World War II in the context of when parachutes were developed.
Then the girl asked why Austria Hungary going to war over an assassination made everyone else jump in as well to start World War I.
She’s 10, or maybe 11. The only reason I could think of that she would even know enough about World War I to ask the question in the first place was that last year was the centennial of the start of the war, so maybe there was more taught about it than when I was in 5th grade.
Here’s the thing. I studied Politics and minored in Diplomacy. The run up to World War I is a huge piece of diplomatic history. Given that she already understood that the assassination was the spark, to explain the tinder would take a lot of time. And maps, lots of maps. The complexity of factors leading up to the war is the subject of history papers and essay questions, and even now, with a century to look back, it’s hard to definitively answer the question, mainly because the whole thing was a big mess.
I can totally explain all that in detail, but it would take an hour, an hour we were supposed to use to talk about Zachaeus. So we moved on.
That’s the fun part of teaching Sunday School. You never know what kids are going to ask.